An ultrafast recipe for frustration

It started with a scattering of day-glo hieroglyphics on our driveway and nine months later ultrafast broadband is up and running at our house.

Installation was anything but ultrafast. Here’s what happened.

Last November we set events in motion with our provider, Vodafone. Yes, we could be connected to the ultrafast fibre network in late January or February. Quite promptly, a new modem was delivered. This seems efficient, we thought.

Then we waited. In late March the right of way to our property was filled with men in hi-vis vests crouched behind traffic cones and orange tape. Home from work, I parked in the street. Two men were fixing grey conduit pipe to the various wooden fences that line one side of our 60m right of way. Tacked erratically to the fence, the whole arrangement looked very ragtag and bobtail. In one place, it went around a scraggy self-sown euphorbia, in another it descended to a concrete footing.

At the same time as I arrived, a van pulled up and a man carrying a clipboard got out. He looked as if he was in charge so I asked him about the conduit. “ That’s an interesting installation,” I remarked. “What happens to the pipe if the fence comes down?”

This was a reasonable question because at least one section of post and board is tottering. “Oh, you’ll just contact Chorus and they’ll come and replace it,” he replied, rather too blithely I thought.  “We were told the cabling would go underground,” I said. “This is how we’re told to do these sorts of installations, it’s all planned for us beforehand,” he replied.

Fibre installation is free, so I accepted the situation as part of the deal. But husband Steve and one of our right of way neighbours weren’t happy. They contacted Chorus and protested.  They sent photos. The Nelson Chorus “suits” arrived and agreed that light grey conduit snaking untidily along dark fencing was not OK and should go underground.

It was three more months before Chorus’s infrastructure planners, based in Hamilton, contacted us. Their new plan was to have their contractors re-fix the conduit to places that were, if they’d actually inspected the site, impossible.  Steve “discussed” this plan with them for a couple of weeks. In the end Chorus caved. Steve said he’d dig the trench down the grass verge and bury the conduit pipe if they delivered the materials. So that problem was solved.

In late July, I answered the door to Jason from Transfield. He had arrived to organise the fibre hook up inside the house. Finally we’re getting somewhere we thought. I signed papers to say that the technicians could attach a wire to the wall of our study and make a hole next to the skirting board for that purpose. We made a time when someone would be home for four hours straight – the Chorus technicians won’t enter your house unchaperoned.

The day came. Steve sat while wires were pulled and connections made. Except they weren’t. Something was wrong with the fibre out in Nayland Road and we’d have to wait for Chorus’s contractors to dig up the street, put new fibre in and try again. In the meantime we’d have no internet. What? Not impressed, Steve contacted Vodafone and after some more “discussion”, internet service resumed.

More waiting. Finally, in mid August, another Chorus team turned up. The street was not the problem. The cable that ran under our house to the modem was faulty. The error was explained thus: “Those guys were from Rotorua.” A new cable went in and was hooked up successfully.  The Chorus technician went to extra lengths to make sure everything worked as it should, because, dear reader, it didn’t work right away.

Was that the end of the process? No, not quite. Our land line was now dead. We didn’t realize this for several days as we could still ring out and we both use cell phones. But it turned out that no-one could ring in. Vodafone told us our phone number did not exist. After some more ‘discussion’, they reinstated it and we were back in business. Our answer phone message has disappeared into the ether but I suppose that’s a minor issue compared to the rest.

And why did it take so long? There’s a clue in the labyrinthine process you sign up to if you decide to hook up to fibre.  Concentrate: your provider starts the process by contacting Chorus who are responsible for delivering ultrafast broadband to Nelson.

In Nelson, Chorus uses Transfield to dig trenches, lay conduit, or screw it onto fences, to get the fibre up to the walls of your house.  Transfield engages a variety of contractors to install this necessary infrastructure – we had different contractors for the right of way and our driveway.  Then Transfield comes to your house and organises the Chorus technicians to wire the house and make your broadband go.

This arrangement probably looks fine on a flow chart. But there’s plenty of room for communication problems, mixed messages, workers from Rotorua and dodgy cables to slip through the gaps. Don’t say you weren’t warned!

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Angela Fitchett

Angela Fitchett is a retired teacher living in Nelson. Also retired from writing English textbooks and columns for local paper the Nelson Mail, she is researching and writing a memoir based around her father’s war experiences while attempting to keep up with her grandchildren and garden.